A cookie becomes more than a cookie when you decide it is more than a cookie, as with anything that you decide is more than what it actually is. You make it so by believing it is so. Simple yet complicated, and beautifully illustrated by my favorite John Green quote:
A cookie is a cookie. It is food. Money is money, it is legal tender for making purchases. A person is a person who is a human being who will behave in a human manner (mostly) and is incapable of perfection. You see where we’re going here- it’s not really the thing that’s the problem, it’s your belief about the thing. This rule holds true for every area in your life, but if you can grasp it in relation to food, a door of recognition will be opened to you and you will become aware of other areas in your life that are affected by the belief that a thing is more than a thing and you will be able to view the situation through new eyes.
Overcoming a belief is not an effortless task. Most of us have said at one time or another: “I can’t stop myself at one cookie. I go out of control and have to eat several.” and we truly believe it. I am using cookies as an example, but feel free to substitute your own particular poison. The food or “thing” matters not, it’s the belief that needs to be re-routed. So what’s the solution? Here’s where things get sticky… there is no ONE solution. On the bright side, there are an infinite amount of possible solutions, but only you can find your solution. If there is one hard and fast rule of thumb I’ve learned on our autism journey it is that there is no ONE SIZE FITS ALL FORMULA for everybody for anything. That said, the broad solution will come as no surprise to you: you have to change your thinking. As I told you in an earlier post, thinking in pictures helps me. Picture a sled (I make mine red when I think of it so that it stands out in my mind). Every time you have a recurring thought (such as the one about not being able to eat just one cookie) it’s like that sled making a path in the snow. The more times you ride your sled down the path, the more ingrained the path gets and the more difficult it becomes for your sled to veer outside the path. This is a rough idea of how neural pathways work in your brain. Every time you get on your sled, if you don’t make effort to make a new path (by thinking a new thought) your sled veers to the well-worn path without you even steering it there. You go there by rote. Getting on a new path requires consciously steering your sled off the old path and onto a new one. So what should the new thought be? This truly depends on the reasons why you feel a food controls you, so your new thought will have to be in contrast to that reason. Since I don’t know your reason without speaking to you, I will use my own personal experience with peanut butter blossoms (yes, those delightful cookies shown above) as an example. I went through a phase one Christmas over 20 years ago where I ate more peanut butter blossoms than you can imagine. At first I panicked, felt guilty, worried about gaining weight and did everything I could to avoid them, which only made me eat even more of them. Then I realized that my old bulimic habits had come home to roost. You see, the only reason food has ever controlled me is when I have a fear that I can’t have something. That was it. From that moment on I put my sled on a new path that said, “Lisa, you can have as many of those cookies as you want. There are plenty today and there will be plenty tomorrow. Eat them and enjoy them.” For about a week, I baked those cookies first thing in the morning before work and I ate them with breakfast and lunch. I came home and made a fresh batch and I ate them with dinner. I ate them and I enjoyed them. Then one day I woke up and thought, “I’m done with those cookies.” I had ingrained in my brain that though I could have the cookies, I was choosing not to have the cookies. Not because I couldn’t, but because I was choosing not to. I had the power to do that. I have baked those cookies every Christmas since and never have I wanted more than one or two of them at a time. But if I did, I’d have them. Years later when I would undertake the challenge of abstaining from alcohol, this earlier lesson in thought control and the many others that would follow served to prepare me in the realization that I was in control of my choices. And that is by no means to say that making the choice that you know serves you best is easy, especially when it comes to addictive behaviors. Sometimes you have to accept that you may be making the difficult choices on a second-by-second basis. We are talking head-between-the-knees-deep-breathing-Lord-get-me-past-this-moment days. More on this in future posts.
A cookie is a cookie, a person is a person, and a beer is a beer. But you are a spiritual being who has strength and capacity beyond what you even comprehend is possible to face any challenge or consequence that is thrown in your path. You have it. You just may not know it. And the only way to know it is to operate in faith that it’s there when you’re not sure that it is. It will then be revealed to you in pieces. And you won’t know where this piece fits and why that piece had to be so difficult and when the next piece will show up, and you will become frustrated. But every so often enough a corner will come together and you’ll be shown a bit of the bigger picture. And though you can’t fully comprehend what it means, you have a sense that it’s well worth the journey.